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where wisdom gathers, poetry unfolds and divine light is sparked…

Month: June, 2009

and the nest came tumblin’ down

the winds thrashed that night. and the rains did too. came down hard and heavy, like nails from up above. pelting nails.

on nights like that the trees bend and toss. make you forget, nose pressed to glass, watching, staring, gasping right out loud, that trees are made of wood not paper.

makes you wonder, on nights like that one, how the wild things survive. how the dawn comes, and the dewdrops glisten. how the birds shake off their sodden feathers, fly again.

only, sometimes, they don’t.

you tiptoe out in the morning, survey the world that’s yours as the light comes up, casts its gold-drenched illumination, like a blanket rolling toward the west. your naked toes drink in the bath that is oozy lawn, two parts mud, one part grass.

you count the fallen things: the poppies pummeled, crepe-paper petals strewn, so much sad confetti; the peonies waterlogged and dripping, necks bent, noses pressed into the earth, fuchsia washrags in the end, their short, short season cut even shorter.

it is all the heartache you come to know, come to weather, when you love a garden year after year after one disaster or another.

but then, sometimes, some holy blessed heart-breaking times, you stumble on a fallen something that draws you to your knees. that draws a gasp from your heart and lungs.

it’s not something you see maybe more than once a lifetime. it’s not something you want to see. not tumbled to the ground anyway. not tousled, cracked. before your toes and eyes.

not when it’s a nest, a perfect robin’s nest, all mud-daubed, sticks and stems on the outer rim, for stability. and tucked within with grasses finer, softer, where the eggs will gently lay.

where the eggs are now, as you’ve stumbled upon it. where the eggs, two of them at least, still are perfect ovoid realms of possibility.

but the third is cracked. and you can see straight inside, to flesh and blood and little bird, formed and forming. till the winds and rain and tumbling came, that is.

and there’s no mama robin in sight. and you can’t hear her either. can’t hear her mournful cry. for she has lost her nest, and babies too.

and you can’t bear, quite, to swallow all of this. to make sense of this.

how so perfect a springtime construction can be tossed and whipped by winds and rains and trees that bent like paper.

my mama was the one who found it. of course my mama. she’s the one who knows her trees, her wild things, by heart. she lets no day dawn without her keeping close watch. she makes it her job to be the caretaker of all this wonder.

she tracks the comings and the goings of all the babies–ducks and deer, raccoon and robin. she knows generations, even.

year after year, they return to her, the wild things of the woods that surround her.

the ducks–mr. and mrs. mallard, she calls them–cross at the sign she has posted on her mailbox–SLOW. DUCK CROSSING–so the cars might pause where the mallards make their passage from the creek on one side, to my mother’s cracked corn on the other.

mama deer bring their fawns. nestle down atop the ivy beds, close to the house, where they know, i suppose, that they’ll be safe, tended to, while the mamas make feast of my mother’s gardens.

more than once, a mama deer has left her spotted little one at my mama’s all day long. came back at dusk to fetch the wobbly thing. deer daycare, i suppose. smart choice, i say, commending mama deer. i, too, made the same choice, when it came to caring for my little ones.

and so, of course, it was on my mother’s early morning rounds, the morning after that nasty noisy storm, that she found the nest and eggs that tumbled down.

in my mama’s book of rules, you do not leave a sacred something lying there abandoned. as if a discard.

there are no discards when it comes to nature. only lessons to be learned. and mercy studied.

and so my mama lifted it, the nest and all its eggs. slipped it in a bag, and brought it here, to where i type.

left it lying beside my keyboard, so i too could study its perfection. its heartbreak. its potential so abruptly wrenched from the safety and sanctity of the mighty oak’s gnarled limbs.

i take these lessons from above quite to heart, of course. i am my mother’s daughter, after all. don’t take it lightly that i am blessed to peer inside a mama robin’s grassy labors.

i am again and again enchanted by the brilliant know-how of the birds, how they know to make the nest just so, sturdy on the outside, soft and soothing where the babies would have hatched.

i muse, of course, on how all of us are born knowing the fundamentals of construction–how it is, at least, we build our nests for the ones we hatch and love.

i consider, too, the emptiness of that mama robin’s belly. how she must be longing still to press against the warmth of those bright blue eggs, where perhaps she felt the stirrings of the life within.

there is much to learn contemplating how mud and sticks and grass combine to build a nest. and how the wind and rain and bending trees could toss it all away.

i consider the thud that must have been, when the nest came tumbling down, stopped hard against the ground. and how that thud echoed in the empty heart of that blessed mama robin.

once again, lessons left for me to learn. thanks be to my very own mother nature.

did you have a chance this week to stumble on a lesson left–in any form–by the hand of mother nature? or some other week, perhaps? do tell…..
as i type this my mama is flying east, into the sunrise, to behold for the first time her grand-daughter. the thought of it fills me with tenderness. my mama waited a long long time to meet that little girl. i wait still….my time will come. i pray for time for the two of them to learn together the lessons of the woods….she is some teacher, my mother nature…

hangin’ onto coffeecake crumbs…

some weeks all it takes is a grocery store coffeecake, under a clear plastic dome, slapped with a bright orange sticker; its price slashed in half.

some weeks when you are a mama, or any plain tired old soul, when you’ve been through the wringer, feel ready to fall, wish like anything for arms to fall into–even the arms of your favorite old chair–some weeks all it takes is a stroll past a plastic-domed cake.

to feel your heart wobble a little.

to think, that’s the thing.

i’ll carry it home.

plop it down on the table.

make like i’m paying attention. making home feel a little like home.

instead of the wasp’s nest. or the hurricane. that it’s felt like all week.

for 16 years now–come monday, that is, when my firstborn strides round that big 16 bend–i’ve made it my job, my no. 1 job, to try to make certain that here in our house there’s a wrapper of love.

i remember the moment, clear as could be, that i saw in my head the picture of this brand of love, the one i would traffic in, once my firstborn was born.

a clear-walled bubble it was, unpunctured. no beginning or end. all-encompassing. a shield that would keep out the bad, and seal in only the good.

oh, it bobbled at first, that bubble of love. took a stumble or two, back in the early few weeks.

where is the room, i kept gasping and asking myself, for breathing and eating and thinking whole thoughts, here with a babe in your arms, with a heart that is suddenly, utterly, yours to protect?

right off, my instincts went deep, didn’t swerve or look back. fact was, i’d never felt love quite like this love.

like falling it was. like i wouldn’t ever let up, let a crevice or crack of darkness seep in.

my love would be fierce, would be always. my heart and my arms would be harbor. in time, so would the walls of my home.

over the years, as i’ve said here before, i chiseled my own solid gospel of everyday grace, of the comfort and beauty that is mine to bring through the door. to set on the table. to tuck under the sheets. to stash in the drawers.

oh, but these last few weeks, i’ve felt i could hardly keep up. could barely patch together a semblance of peace, or of calm. or dinner at six.

so i, like a swimmer out there where the water’s too deep, i keep grasping. for lifelines and buoys.

and plastic-domed cakes.

i’ve run out of words, out of steam, too often of late. it’s all i can do, some sorry late nights, to chase my sweet little boy straight up the stairs, to tuck him in bed, and race through the prayers, and let out a sigh as i pull shut his door.

and feel rather sad that i’ve not done it all better, this rare grasp of life with a child of seven. and one who’s nearly 16.

so the crumb of the coffee cake, there on the grocery store shelf, at the end of a very long week, it whispered to me, offered a promise of lifting the day to a richer beginning.

it might make a friday different from thursday. offer a break from the cornflakes and milk, of monday till now.

it’s all i could do, that cake for $2.49. to tell the boys that i love that i’m not giving up. i’ll not forsake all my vows, my promise made long, long ago.

i’ll be the shield and the light. i’ll sew stitches of grace. scatter dewdrops of beauty.

i’ll leave coffeecake crumbs in my trail.

long as they lead us all home, to here where our hearts thump the most loudly.

question: what brand of love did you set out to spread in the world? do you think much about it, or just simply live it? who taught you loving, or was it born straight from your heart, or from heaven itself?
do you ever resort to shortcuts, or secret morse codes, to spell out your love, when words and hours run short?

um, summer starts…here?

the calendar months and months ago had been marked, “school’s out.” the plan, picnic at the beach, carved into our little heads.

workdays had been shuffled around, errands scratched.

it was the last day of school, dang it, a day that still stirs that once-in-a-lifetime gallump in your belly, that still can make even a mama feel lighter than air itself.

for weeks now, it’s been nothing but worries, making sure the 2d grader got the research project signed, sealed, delivered. getting the high schooler through exams, without crumbling into little bits of nerve-jangled angst.

last day of school is hardly just a picnic for the children. why, it’s hallelujah time for grownups too.

and so we weren’t about to let a little winter weather get in the way of our summer’s start.

never mind that winds were howling. and goosebumps, the skin covering of the day.

we would not be deterred.

fools we were, marching into the joint where hotdogs and gyros come drippingly (though not in trans-fats, the posters promise). we ordered up. grabbed our grease-dappled bag and set out to where the summer would begin: the beach.

the 50-degree, rain-splattered, wind-tousled beach.

hmm, seemed no need for that ol’ tattered quilt in the back of the wagon. it would not be spread across these soggy sands. maybe just around our shaky shoulders, there inside the comfort of our upholstered picnic grounds.

seemed our picnic–and thus our summer–would commence right there on seats A and B of the wagon. the dashboard, we found, made for a fine picnic table. as did the booster seat in back.

we sat, counted raindrops, nibbled on our non-trans-fats.

we were, except for the fellow steaming up the windows in the car next door, the only fools testing out the beach, taunting summer to begin, darn it. get started already.

sometimes you make do. you stick your fingers in the mound of greasy fries. you consider the fact that only summer lies ahead.

you make wishes on the raindrops, savor the immense weightlessness of that one glorious day that comes but a few times in any life: the day that all the worries of the world are lifted, and you are free, free of sitting in your desk, free of hauling lunch in lunch bags, free of filling in the nightly homework log.

those days aren’t mine any longer. long ago i lost the blessed, lung-filling magnificence of no-more-worries. that’s a gift for kids alone.

but once a year, when you’re a mama, you get to slip and slide into the dream, to pretend, until you reach the bottom of the bag of fries, that you too are let loose from all that ties you.

and, so, even when the rains splatters on your windshield, you steer toward the beach. you pour out your picnic fare. and you lick from your fingertips all that summer promises.

and you pay no mind to goosebumps.

people, what’s your wish list for summer? besides a little heat, please….

a prayer for those who didn’t make it

we said a prayer last night. for all the ones who didn’t make the team. the ones who tried out in pouring rain and chill winds, three nights running. the ones who laced up, hoped and dreamed. especially for the little one who held his father’s hand, hid behind a tree and never even made it on the field.

then yesterday, when the list went up, when the teams were all disclosed, when the cuts came clear and cold, spelled out in numbers on a list, some 20 of the 60 boys scanned and held their breath. looked high and low to find their number somewhere on the roster. didn’t find it.

my little one did. his number, there. right smack where he hoped it would be.

but all day long, and especially in the moments when we waited, before our eyes fell sharp and clear on the 1-1-8 that belonged to him, i couldn’t help but think of 7-year-olds and 8-year-olds finding out too soon perhaps that they didn’t measure up.

not by this measure anyway.

i struggle mightily with these sorts of measures, with any sort, i think. and i can’t wholly tell you why. only that i live and breathe to see the wholeness, the completeness, in each and every one of us. that, mightily, i pray that all of us could bathe and bask in the holiness of who we are.

maybe for too long i felt like i fell short.

maybe there’ve been too many nights of tears in my own kitchen, holding on, wishing more than anything that i could soothe the wounds, staunch the drip-drip-drip, of my own child who’d been told somehow he wasn’t fill-in-the-blank enough.

and here we are, in a world where winning seems to count for everything. where all the glory comes to those who charge the field, seize the goal, rise triumphant. where the stumbles, too often, go ignored.

where i wonder who is pausing now to consider all those broken hearts, the soccer dreams in shatters on the pillows in the houses all around this town, every town, everywhere.

i’ve no idea, really, how it is we teach the human heart to go beyond its borders, to consider how the other child feels. but i won’t stop trying. won’t turn in the book of empathy. and this seems, indeed, time again to stretch and reach and plant another seed.

it is, perhaps, the most essential lesson that we teach.

we spend our years, some of us, mumbling and muttering words that might, frankly, enter one ear and exit straight out the other.

but we mumble and mutter anyway.

we mumble and we pray.

we pause and say the words.

dear God, we prayed last night, my little one and i, please take care of all the hearts that are sad tonight, the ones who didn’t make it.

my little one prayed along. or at least he echoed all the words.

i prayed in double-time, praying not only the prayer itself but also that some little crumb, a dust speck maybe, of the message here settled on my brand-new soccer player’s heart.

that especially when we grab hold of what we wanted, more than anything, we remember those who didn’t.

remember what it feels like. imagine what it feels like.

to go running in the rain, three nights long, and then be told by week’s end, that it wasn’t good enough. we weren’t good enough.

not everyone, i know, can be a winner all the time.

but dear God, i beg, bless the hearts of those who cannot understand, who wonder what it is that left them looking for a number that wasn’t there.

and now at merely 7- or 8-years old–so very, very young, really–they’ve come to stumble on a sort of sadness i don’t wish for any child.

do you worry about the shock to the human heart of being told you’re not good enough? did you suffer this when young? how did you survive, climb out of that dark hole? how have you been tested to soften the blow when it came to someone you love? what are your thoughts on social constructs that are built on a foundation of some-win-some-lose, that’s-the-way-the-world-works? need it be that way? or is there, please Lord, some other gentler way?